He made these remarks during a press briefing with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.
“If we shut everything down to stop coronavirus, we will never be able to get back on our feet. This is exactly why we need a strategy of testing, tracing and quarantining,” reasoned Umar, adding that countries that employed a similar strategy were now on the verge of reopening their economies.
Elaborating on what he meant by testing, tracing and quarantining, the minister explained that the government would first aim to conduct mass testing followed by constituting a system of extensive contact tracing, whereby, infected patients and all those who came in contact with them are quarantined. Umar argued that by following this strategy, the government will be able to reopen essential sectors of the economy, which in turn will make the transition to complete normalcy smoother.
The federal minister also announced that another session of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) will take place on Tuesday.
“Decisions on our future course of action will be taken after the next NCC session,” Umar stated, adding that the government’s strategy from day one has been to bring all the provinces and stakeholders on board before taking decisions.
Umar also lauded the nation for “behaving responsibly”, saying that Pakistan’s situation, in terms of number of confirmed cases, is better than most developed countries.
He also urged the country’s business community to be responsible and take precautions to protect their workers from Covid-19. He added that the government may introduce legislation making it compulsory for businesses to protect their employees from the disease.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, meanwhile, agreed with Asad Umar that testing, tracing and quarantining was an extremely effective way of not just defeating Covid-19 but also for returning to normalcy.
“Look, we have only been testing symptomatic people so far. We are now expanding that circle so that we can start contact tracing effectively,” Zafar said.
Zafar also announced that the government currently had the capacity to conduct 600,000 tests, an amount which is expected to cross 1 million by mid-April. He added that these testing kits would allow the government to meet its daily testing target of carrying out 20,000 to 25,000 tests by end of April.
“As we speak, we have 27 laboratories for testing and we will soon be constructing 7 more labs,” Zafar said.
SAPM Mirza also announced that Pakistan will, in the coming weeks, be able to produce N-95 masks locally and would not have to import them.
He concluded by saying that that the country was working on producing personal protective equipment required by medics exposed to the coronavirus in the country.